Royal Happenings: With iPads, students are “virtually there”

This year, Watertown-Mayer Schools launched an iPad initiative for the first time, where every student is paired with an iPad. Here is what several faculty members are saying about how the iPads are helping:

Imagine standing in the center of the Roman Coliseum and being able to turn in a circle taking in the history surrounding you. Can’t afford the airfare? No time between 2nd and 3rd block to make it to Italy and back? While nothing can actually compare to a firsthand encounter the students in this year’s Art History class are getting a taste.

In one unit, students are reading the current bestselling novel by Daniel Silva, The Fallen Angel. A former Israeli agent who is an art restorer has been called to The Vatican to restore the Caravaggio entitled The Deposition of Christ. While there, the death of a curator leads to a host of intrigue which takes the reader from St. Peters Basilica in Rome to The Dome of The Rock in the Middle East. It involves several artworks, architecture and historical sites from a variety of eras and artists. Students are introduced to The Carabinieri Art Squad, the branch of the Italian police responsible for combating art and antiquities crimes in Italy and wherever in the world a case may take them.

When reading on their IPad they can highlight a word and have it spoken for them to get the correct pronunciation, they can have it defined and they can also do a web search; which in the case of artwork will bring up a full color image of the piece or place.  Then, using the maps app they can drop a pin in front of St. Peters for example, or again in the middle of the Coliseum, tap on the little car and see a modern day image as though they were standing right at that spot, they can look up, down, or all around in a circle.

While reading they can also highlight, take and add notes, place bookmarks and then call them all up with the tap of a finger.  It can make it so real that they just may want to take that trip across the ocean one day and when they get there, it may seem very familiar.

-Abigail Albitz, Watertown-Mayer Art Department

In Social Studies, iPads and technology are transforming the way students learn.  In classes, Social Studies students are developing and enhancing their digital skills using a variety of apps on their iPads.  A few examples include: digitally acquiring and organizing information by downloading documents as PDF’s and converting them into editable notes using Notability; completing and turning in assignments via Google Docs, email, and/or Schoology;  using Google and other search engines for conducting online research; using Google Docs, iMovie, and Educreations for creating and presenting collaborative projects, and interpreting and creating digital interactive maps using Google Earth, iPad Maps, Skitch, and PaperPort Notes.

Another significant change has come through improved student/teacher communications via email.  Social Studies teachers routinely send emails to their class groups, and can easily get messages to individual students as well.  Teachers and students are now “on the same page” regarding what’s on the agenda for a given day, and students have the necessary materials, resources, and assignments either attached or linked to that email.  If a student is ever absent, all they have to do is check email for the previous day’s activities and assignments.

In just a few short weeks, the iPad has become invaluable to the department as an educational tool.  We look forward to continuing to discover new possibilities and opportunities for students to digitally acquire, analyze, and create information, and develop 21st century skills needed for success in this digital age.

-Scott Olson, WMHS social Studies Teacher

Starting in a new position, in my case as Director of Special Education for the Watertown-Mayer School District, an immediate challenge is to remember the names of all special education staff members. Initially, you associate the individual with his or her work location, or service area, or in the case of special education teacher Penny Rundell, you remember her, as “the teacher with the check”
I believe it was my second conversation with Penny when she asked: “what do I do with this check in the amount of 4,000?”

I quickly learned that Penny had submitted a successful grant to the Huested Foundation, and had just received the full grant award.  The successful grant application was designed to help support the Watertown-Mayer iPad initiative, which began during the 2011-12 school year, targeting students with special learning needs, and which has expanded to include all Watertown-Mayer students for the 2012-13 school year.

During the initial year of iPad implementation, Penny recognized not only the significant value of the each student having his/her individual iPad, but she  also recognized the need for having  dedicated iPad’s, equipped with evidence based applications or “apps” calculated to the wide range of  student learning needs. With the grant award, Penny will be purchasing dedicated iPad’s and “apps” for school based learning opportunities underscoring the functionality, and instructional capacity of the iPad.

The iPad offers to all learners a sense of independence that many students, especially those with disabilities, may never have experienced before.  When you find something (i.e. new learning) on your own, you tend to remember it. That is exactly what is happening when students discover through their interaction with the iPad, that self-directed learning and discoveries are not easily forgotten. Similar to a student who on their own, discover new learning pathways, is the Director of Special Education, who receives a check for four-thousand dollars; the “discovery” and the “teacher” will not easily be forgotten.

-Mike Piersak, SPED Director

Royal Happenings is an occasional feature in the Carver County News. Content is provided by Watertown-Mayer staff.